An award-winning garden, praised for helping wildlife thrive, was mistakenly destroyed by municipal contractors.
The scenic patch of wildflowers at Butts Community Garden – which took most of the day to plant – was mistakenly cut by an East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) contractor despite warning signs.
The garden is part of an initiative by nature group Hampshire Alton Climate Action Network to encourage locals to care for their own gardens in a more environmentally friendly way.
The initiative was launched by conservation charity Plantlife to encourage gardeners to stop cutting their grass to help wildflowers and pollinators grow.
Last year, the grassland won the Pollin-8 award from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust because the grassland helps butterflies, voles and toads thrive on the plants’ leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds.
Gareth Hurd, who lives next door to the land in Alton, came up with the idea of turning the space into a meadow and intentionally planted all of the British wildflowers last year.
But when he returned from work as a nature conservation worker, he found that his hard work had been destroyed.
Mr Hurd said he does not yet know the extent of the damage to the meadow, but believes it has set back progress by around five years.
He said: “The space is meant to show people what you can do in your garden that is more environmentally friendly in different ways.
“But the side that’s good for the environment has been flattened.”
Mr Hurd said the contractor’s error was “understandable”, but added: “It is very disappointing.
“We spent hours going through all the paperwork, getting licenses and signage. I thought a lot of wooden poles would have given them a clue.
“It will grow back. I’m trying to avoid having to replant. Autumn will tell how many survived, but I lost a good proportion, I might have to replant a little bit.
Rick Luke, Mr Hurd’s neighbour, described the destruction of the garden as “disappointing”, particularly as the bank of rough grass and weeds was left alone.
He said: “There were beautiful flowers and across the road the bank is full of dandelions, rough grass, ivy and brambles and they haven’t mowed that.
“They went and mowed this lovely little garden. One side now looks like complete and utter horror – they left a clump of weeds.”
The council apologized for the blunder and opened an investigation.
A spokesperson said: “We are deeply upset to learn that this community garden was cut down in error. We will investigate this and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.
“In the meantime, we are writing to the group apologizing and offering to reseed the land with wildflowers ourselves.”